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"The Nightlight" by Eyes on the Sky is all about how to see things in the night sky, things you can build to improve your amateur astronomy experience, and general thoughts on astronomy and light pollution.
By Dave Fuller on 12/23/2012 10:57 PM
I've been considering what mount to build for my long, 6" f/10.9 reflector.  I thought I'd decided on a split-ring equatorial mount, but due to the length of the tube and the required size of split ring for that tube, I had second thoughts.  I posted on Cloudy Nights' forum about it, and some people made a good suggestion for me:

A pipe mount.



These are the types of mounts people use to make back in the 60's when it was much more of a "do it yourself or go without" era for telescopes, because many of the retail scopes were, comparatively, quite expensive.  And on top of the, fancy solid equatorial mounts were big, heavy and... expensive.

So what to do?  Build a mount from simple plumbing parts.

The thing is, as telescopes have come down in price over the decades, one things that hasn't changed is the cheap, flimsy tripod that goes with those...
By Dave Fuller on 12/21/2012 11:07 PM
So I asked for that "cloud filter" a few days ago.  Well, the clouds cleared, and I actually had some free time when it was clear.  So out came the 6" f/10.9 prototype reflector tube, on the SkyView Pro mount.  Not ideal, but the only mount I have for that scope set up right now.

BAM!  Jupiter, first at 82x to center it, then at 183x.  OH YEAH.  A 6mm EP to try at 275, but the very transparent sky wasn't necessarily a steady atmosphere.  That's okay; 183x is quite good.  Good definition of the belt system, and the four moons were tack sharp.

Can't say the same for my eyes.  Why's that?

It is COLD tonight!  Okay, 'grand scheme of things' not that terrible at 19F, but colder than any night I've been outside since... well, since sometime earlier this year when it was late winter 2012!  So 19F feels awfully cold, especially with a 3 to 7 mph breeze right on my face.  Turned around it was fine, but - well, I wasn't looking at anything that direction!

I did turn the scope down towards M42,...
By Dave Fuller on 12/18/2012 4:31 PM
That's a joke of course.  Cloud filters don't exist.  But if they did, it sure would be helpful.

I guess I only have myself to blame though.  My family has trouble finding Christmas gifts for me - with good reason.  I really am hard to shop for.  So this year I helped them out, and bought a few small items they could give to me as gifts.  I know - a little backwards (it's not like I didn't first propose them making or doing something for me instead!).  And these times are astronomy related - or more accurately, telescope equipment related.

Which brings up, "The Curse."

The Astronomer's Curse is one of those strange things that doesn't seem like it should logically occur, but often it does manifest itself.  "The Curse" is when an amateur astronomer purchases a "new to them" piece of equipment, it will be cloudy for at least a week or more AFTER they receive the item.

I skipped The Curse on one item - a Celestron C6N reflector.  It also has "cloud clearing" properties, wherein the times...
By Dave Fuller on 12/11/2012 8:27 PM
Because of clouds or other commitments, I don't always get to view every single object I talk about in the "Eyes on the Sky" videos near the time I talk about them.  Usually I have seen these objects at some time in the past, though not always.  This week is a good example; I know what the larger asteroids in our solar system should look like - I just hadn't ever actually seen one before.

Until now.  Of course, it looked very star-like, unlike the high-resolution photo on the right.

I literally went outside with just my coat on (it got pretty cold here near Chicago early this week), did not bother to dark adapt, and simply had my 7x50 binoculars around my neck.  I had taken a good look at the star chart I made, and made a mental note of where the 5th and 6th magnitude stars near Aldebaran and Vesta were, and what they should...
By Dave Fuller on 12/6/2012 7:56 AM

Like most amateur astronomers, I do not have an astrophysics degree, or much less a doctorate or master's in something related to astronomy.  I've just always had a connection with the night sky since I was young.  That said, I did choose both astronomy and meteorology as my required science classes in college - though much has changed in astronomy even since then.  

So in what field(s) is my degree?

By Dave Fuller on 12/4/2012 9:44 AM
Astronomy binocular buying guide Binoculars seem to be everywhere today.  Miniature, pocket-binocs can be had for $15 or $20, which is an astonishing price point when you stop to consider how many lenses and prisms are in them.  And though these may be perfectly acceptable for quick views of the occasional bird or squirrels, the sheer physics of their limited light gathering make them impractical for usage in astronomy.

That leads to the flip side the binocular world: The large aperture, high magnification ones.  These seem like a great idea as well: 60 and 70 millimeter lenses with 15, 20 and 25 times magnification.  We need more light through the lenses to see more, and higher magnification is always a good thing, right?  Well... yes and no.  Good, high-quality, anti-reflection coated lenses, BAK-4 prisms, expertly-collimated binoculars make great, specialty astronomy binoculars, but observers with instruments such as these will also need a beefy, strong tripod, because their weight will make them heavy...
By Dave Fuller on 12/1/2012 8:51 PM

A couple years ago I discovered the "Classic Telescopes" sub-forum at CloudyNights.com.  Reading through the threads about many of these 1950's, 60's and 70's (and sometimes 80's) era scopes, you start to get a real good sense that many of these older instruments outperform their like-sized cousins today.  Now, I'm not in a financial position (or usually in the right part of the country to be close enough) to get some of the large Cave reflectors, or older Unitrons, much less the more rare and pricey antique ones like Brashears and such.  

Nope, for me it's things like Sears, Coulter and Tasco.  I know, I know - you're thinking, "Sears?  Tasco?  Isn't Tasco that cheap retail store stuff that you can find on craigslist for like $50 or less?"

Well, yes and no.  

Thing is, the OLDER ones are actually half-decent.  I have a...

By Dave Fuller on 11/29/2012 10:35 PM

I captured a shot of the Moon tonight, that is on the area of the lunar surface highlighted in this week's "Eyes on the Sky" video.  The shot isn't all that great - there were some high clouds blocking a fully clear view - but it's not bad, all things considered.  I wish more amateur astronomers would look at the Moon more often.  There really is A LOT to see on it!

I only labelled a few things below.  Check out all of that detail - craters, maria, dark floored plains, bright albedo features... 

By Dave Fuller on 11/28/2012 9:06 PM
My parents visited for the Thanksgiving weekend.  My dad helped me finish putting together my prototype 6" f/10.9 reflector telescope.  The tubes had been taped and shellacked.  The secondary spider was completed.  The primary cell had been purchased.  And the mirror had just been refigured and coated.  So everything was basically in place; it just needed to be put together.

With a few holes drilled in the tube, I got the spider and secondary in place.  Three more holes and I had the primary mirror cell all set.  I used a laser collimater to align the two together, and having attached a 13" long dovetail bar to the two tubes using some 1/4-20 screws and bolts, I slapped the whole thing on my SkyViewPro mount / pier.

In went a 25mm eyepiece.  Now, given that it was dark, I hadn't aligned the finderscope with the main tube.  So even finding the Moon was an exercise in some frustration, initially.  When I'd finally got the Moon in the main scope, I adjusted the finder.  Even with the lower power eyepiece,...
By Dave Fuller on 11/17/2012 6:55 PM
Skywatcher apparently has a rebranded version of these scopes.  Someone on Reddit.com/r/astronomy asked why they were having trouble using a 3x barlow with it.  Apparently, this person couldn't get the telescope to focus using it, and wondered why.  Given the short focal length, it's not a bad idea to be using a barlow with this scope, in order to get sufficient magnification to view planets.  But, I don't have a 3x barlow.  I only own a 2x Shorty barlow and a Meade #140 full length 2x barlow.  So I thought it might at least be helpful to see about trying both of my barlows in my Funscope to see what happened.

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.